Thursday, December 31, 2009

HNY!

I couldn't have sung it any better myself: Chris Connor

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jane Harvey update

Has any singer ever covered such a diverse range of songwriter songbooks than my friend, Jane Harvey!? Take a look at her CDBaby page and you'll see what I mean, i.e. Jane sings Fats Waller. . .and Stephen Sondheim!

NOW AVAILABLE: Hot from Harlem: Twelve African American Entertainers, 1890–1960

Sunday, December 27, 2009

And ANOTHER new SSJ Records (Japan) release


ORIGINAL ENGLISH LINER NOTES FOR Beverly Kelly Sings by Bill Reed

I’ve known of Bev Kelly for just about as long as I’ve been listening to jazz. . .which is a while. But I only, finally, met her in when I worked with the singer on the 2007 release of her SSJ Records CD Live at the Jazz Safari. At first, we conferred strictly on the phone, but the two of us finally decided that we had to stop not meeting this way. And since Bev and I both live in Southern California a relative handful of miles apart, we decided to set up a real time production conference. I must confess that when that first meeting was over, not a lot of work had been accomplished. But it was the beginning of a friendship that has continued on down to this current SSJ Bev Kelly release.

With most of her time now devoted to her chosen second profession as a practicing clinical psychologist, most of the singing Dr. Bev Kelly does these days is accomplished a cappella walking on the beach in her home town of Long Beach, CA (her last album, thus far, was 2002‘s Portrait of Nine Dreams). Which works out well for her present-day clients, but not so much for those of us who treasure the artistry of Bev Kelly, the Singer.

Bev was first heard on record, in 1956 and ’57, on two excellent Bethlehem Pat Moran Quartet albums. Also in ‘57 Beverly [she shortened it to Bev around the time of her first Riverside album in 1959] Kelly Sings became the singer’s first album with her name featured above the title. Here, too, she is backed by Pat Moran, fronting a small group.

But this release was also auspicious for another reason; it marked one of the earliest recorded appearances of the late, legendary bassist Scott LaFaro. Prior to the Kelly date, he had only appeared, at age twenty in 1956, on a handful of studio dates with the Buddy Morrow big band and on Steve Allen’s Tonight Show with Chet Baker. LaFaro also performed “live” with both groups.

In 1960 LaFaro was quoted as saying: "I don't like to look back, because the whole point in jazz is doing it now. I don't even like any of my records except maybe the first one I did with Pat Moran on Audio Fidelity." Presumably, the bassist’s remark also covers the Kelly/Moran release. LaFaro also played for a few weeks in December 1957 with the Moran group at their gig at Chicago’s Cloister Inn. (The two dates with LaFaro were recorded in New York.) Rounding out the trio on the Moran and Kelly/Moran dates date was drummer Gene Gammage.

In a conversation I had with Kelly in early November 2009, she looked back on her association with LaFaro, who would soon go on to glory during his all-too-brief (slightly more than a year-and-a-half ) but highly memorable stay with the first major Bill Evans unit, before the bassist’s death in a mid-1961 auto accident.

Kelly says she wonders just where LaFaro might have gone musically had he lived: “It was one of those terrible early losses of a major talent, like[singer] Eva Cassidy. The were both just getting started artistically when they died, yet already they had come so far.”

After LaFaro‘s death, Evans was so distraught, he did not perform publicly for nearly a year.
Bev Kelly and Pat Moran met while both were conservatory students in Cincinnati, Ohio in the mid-1950s. Soon they formed an act, headed to Chicago, where they added a bass and drummer to the group and began performing what Moran describes as “four-way vocals.”

On Moran’s web site, she shares some of her memories of Scott LaFaro: “I met [him] at a jazz club in St. Louis. He was playing with Chet Baker. It was their last night, and we were opening the next. . . one night [in Chicago] Scotty ran in and said we had to go hear this great new pianist who was playing at the Blue Note. We rushed over and it was Bill Evans. I cried the whole time he played--- it was like listening to Mozart. After Bill finished his set, Scotty grabbed me by the hand and insisted we get up and play. I was an emotional wreck, and certainly did NOT want to play after Bill Evans, but I did. I realized later, Scotty really wanted Bill to hear him!” Thus, was musical history made.

After leaving life on the “the road,” Pat Moran (now McCoy) McCoy reemerged in 1984 to write and record a children's album, Shakin’ Loose with Mother Goose which won a national children's book award. In 1989 she appeared on Marian McPartland's radio show Piano Jazz. She has since recorded two albums of religious music, but which still manage to contain just as much jazz feeling as anything from her high-profile performance years.

Moran and Kelly remain in close contact, with the latter confessing to me that she still has dreams of someday recording another album with her longtime friend. Let’s hope it works out, for considering Kelly’s placement in the Pantheon of jazz singers, her recorded output, thus far, has been woefully slim. . .only nine albums! One of the best of which is---unquestionably--- Beverly Kelly Sings. Consisting of twelve of the most firmly-established titles in the Great American Songbook, by the time it was recorded Kelly and Moran had been professionally partnered for several years. And it shows in the musical rapport between them! There’s little doubt, too, that Scott LaFaro’s participation played an integral part in ramping this this date up to full (in Swing Journal-ese) Five Star memorableness.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Another New SSJ Records (Japan) release


ORIGINAL ENGLISH LINER NOTES FOR FRANKIE RANDALL'S I REMEMBER YOU by Bill Reed

As is the case with several other SSJ recording artists, my friendship with Frankie Randall began when I worked with him, for the label, on the reissue of three of his quartet of mid-sixties RCA recordings. Now it is time for the final one of his albums for the outfit (actually the third in the series) to come back into print. (There was, in fact, a fifth RCA release entitled The Mods and the Pops, a more commercially-oriented 1968 recording that the singer only reluctantly acknowledges.)

Almost every time I talk with Randall, I can’t help but come away with the sense that here is some kind of Renaissance Man. One of his latest accomplishments was a stint as a dee-jay for the syndicated radio network, Music of Your Life. And between now and back when, he has been employed as an entertainment director for the Bally Hotel chain, where he employed the likes of Paul Anka, Merv Griffin, Frank Sinatra and, well, just about everybody who was anybody in the field of performing. He is also a composer, arranger and conductor. Nowadays, he also produces and performs in the highly successful touring revue, That’s Italian, which---having been born as Frank Joseph Lisbona in Passaic, New Jersey---Randall most decidedly is. . . that is to say, Italian. (For a time, he also briefly appeared and recorded under the name of Chico Randall, a nickname from his childhood.)

Randall was raised in Clifton, NJ. At the age of seven he began classical piano lessons. He continued his classical training until he was fifteen when his interests turned to jazz. He graduated Clifton High School, after which he earned a music scholarship and worked his way through Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, eventually earning a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and a minor in Philosophy. Around this time, he recorded his first album, in a trio format, for Roulette Records.

For the past few decades, Randall, who started out as self-accompanied singer, has operated mostly as a stand-up performer. But in 2009, when the leader of his band became unavailable at the last minute, Frankie returned to his roots, singing and playing in a trio format at New York’s Feinstein’s at the Regency. Needless to say, the engagement was a major success. As I say, “Renaissance Man” and. . . Johnny-on-the-spot
Randall was not only Frank Sinatra’s employer (so to speak) at Bally‘s, but also his friend and neighbor. In a 2000 newspaper interview, Frankie recalls: “I used to be at Frank's house sometimes four or five nights a week. He used to love to have first-run movies flown down from L.A. [to Rancho Mirage, CA] and invite friends over, anywhere from two to 20, and sit around with a plate of macaroni and watch the movie and enjoy each other's company. . . I met him in 1961 or '62 when I was working at Jilly's in New York. Jilly (Rizzo) was Frank's closest friend. Frank liked the way I sounded and opened the door for me in Las Vegas.” And it wasn’t long after that that Randall graduated from lounge singer-pianist to high-profile performer with a major label (RCA) recording contract.

This third in the series of four releases for the label (remember, let’s not count The Mods and the Pops) follows in the tradition of the other album’s having secured the best in arranging-conducting field to back him in the studio. The arranger-conductors for I Remember You are Frank Hunter, Manny Albam, and Joe Rene. (The bonus track included here, “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” was recorded during the same sessions but not included on the original album.) The same high standard holds true for the players in the band. While the actual complete rundown of the musicians on the date might well have fallen through the cracks of time, Randall says, “Some of the players I can remember are: Kai Winding and J.J. Johnson, trombone; Harry “Sweets” Edison, trumpet; Phil Woods, alto sax; Donn Trenner, piano; George Duvivier, bass; Mel Lewis, drums.” To which I might add: ”!!!!” (exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point.)

“Of all the RCA albums I did, I Remember You was the smallest group I recorded with and still it was overwhelming,” Randall says. “On all the recordings, others of which utilized as many as thirty musicians, it was just overwhelming. The cream of the crop. And I had to rise to the occasion to be worthy of it. No one records like that anymore except maybe Michael Bublé.” He laughed. "I guess you might even say that I was the Michael Bublé of my day"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"THAT'S TERI-TAINMENT!"

Stop the presses!



That perfectly reliable CD cyber seller, Dusty Groove, actually has not only Jane Harvey's SSJ Stephen Sondheim CD in stock (they are almost always out of stock on SSJ items) but also---get this!!---Jane's even newer SSJ CD, I've Been There, also currently available. The nice thing about Dusty Groove, in addition to being dependable, is that their prices on Japanese import SSJ discs (unlike most other sites) don't exactly neccessate mortgaging one's first born. High-ish but, in most cases, worth it! Here are the links:


And the ship must have arrived from around the cape, for they seem to have an unprecedented number of other SSJ titles in stock, including those by Jennie Smith, Kurt Reichenbach, David Allyn, Mal Fitch, Dick & Kiz Harp, Bev Kelly, Beverly Kenney, Leslie Lewis, Perry Como, Linda Merrill, Frankie Randall, Frances Lynne, Carol Fredette, Corky Shayne, Jackie Paris, Richie Kamuca, Carole Simpson and Carol Sloane. If you are interested in ordering any of these titles, better act fast. Based on Dusty Groove past history, most of these are unlikely to last out the day.

UPDATE: THE JANE HARVEY SONDHEIM CD HAS JUST BECOME AVAILABLE AT CDBABY.COMhttp://www.cdbaby.com/cd/harveyjane

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Japanese Jazz Opera



IT SIMPLY DOESN'T GET ANY HIPPER THAN THIS!

update: This "jazz opera" isn't meant to be serious. It is based on an ancient Japanese fable, The Peach Boy (Momotaro), and all the jazz bop standards included herein contain written or re-written lyrics pertaining to that story. Think Saturday Night Live. I just meant it was "hip" because it was so funny and silly due to its drawing upon source materials from such widely divergent centuries. This video came to me via Bill Holman to Tamori Taguchi to Yasuo Sangu. . .

Saturday, December 12, 2009

We wish you a KURO Christmas



note: "Kuro" = "black" in Japanese.
AND---natch---Kuro is the name of our black cat.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Full Circle















___________________

I've just finished reading the wonderful (I'm leaning toward unqualifiedly GREAT) Hound Dog, an autobio (of sorts) of Jewish-verging-on-black songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, written in conjunction with amanuensis David Ritz. And "of sorts" because of its rather Wild Palms-ish construction, with Jerry and Mike trading anecdotal "fives" in an only slightly sequential fashion. Not just a book for lovers of rock and roll and r n' b, but for fanciers of any kind of musique (and that includes concrète).

Much of the early part of Hound Dog deals with the duo's childhood exposure---and immediate love at first sound---to the music of Black America. More than a little ironically I, in turn, was introduced to these sounds by the early work of Jewish "crossover" artists Leiber and Stoller, an experience that I dealt with in MY autbio, Early Plastic. To whit:

"After my father died, my mother, sister and I moved into a Charleston WV housing project: Washington Manor (almost universally pronounced by those who lived there, "May-nor"), a place I remember most especially for its racial lunacy. The apartment windows where whites lived faced out on the black section and, conversely, windows in the black section exclusively looked out on the outside white world. In the five years that we lived there, I never saw a single black face except from my window. The idea was to reinforce racism. On me it had just the opposite effect. I became deeply wrapped up in the notion of the "other."
Making matters even stranger was the official management policy of immediate expulsion from the projects at the merest hint of racial fraternization. One night when I could countenance the madness no longer, I awoke at two in the morning, slipped out of my pajamas and into my jeans, climbed over the fence dividing the two halves and defiantly stood, quaking, in the black part of the projects for several minutes before scurrying back home. The next day I spent half-waiting for some sort of axe to fall over my furtive symbolic gesture, but nothing ever came of my somnambulist experiment in, quite literally, crossing the color line.

But there was an Edenic side of living in the projects: music from the black block parties right outside my window. Strange, new (to me) sounds---radically different from anything played on white radio in the south or near south up until that time--- blaring out of the loudspeakers so deafeningly it rattled the pictures on the walls. I sometimes think I must have been the first white person, except for the records' producers, to have ever heard the likes of these songs sung by the likes of the Big Mama Thornton, The Clovers and The Coasters, et al. I immediately became an aficionado of this new music from, if not exactly another planet, another world; to the extent that I began patronizing Race Records---actually called that---located in the black Ferguson Hotel. What a figure I must have cut in the early-to-mid 1950s; a not­ quite-teenaged white kid in a black record shop, earnings from his paper route clutched in his hand, humming songs to an accommodating African-American clerk who spun the various 45's and 78's until we found the one for which I was looking.

Before long I also stumbled on the 50,000 watt clear channel station out of Nashville, WLAC, featuring deejays Gene Nobles and John R. Enacted after-hours and away from parental scrutiny, auditing WLAC was so clandestine and forbidden, that it operated like a vicarious trial run for sex---something that few teens in the 50s had partaken. Not in my set, anyway. In between their pitches for mail order rhythm and blues packages from Randy's Record Shop in Gallatin, Tennessee and salacious paeans to the lubricating properties of White Rose Petroleum Jelly, this powerhouse outlet blanketed almost the entire country with the real deal in black music instead of the pale white simulacrum coming to be known as rock and roll. Years later I learned that the jockeys on "LAC" ("a service of the Tennessee Life and Casualty Company") weren't actually black, but only "sounded that way." And I wasn't the only who got misled. Legend has it that no less than the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown, showed up at the station late one summer evening with his first recording tucked under his arm hoping to get a break from men whom he had presumed for years were "Negro," until being led into the studio and learning otherwise. When the secret history of rock and roll is writ large, it will probably be made apparent that it wasn't really Dick Clark who turned on teenage America to black music, but instead, this seldom acknowledged radio phenomenon out of the heartland of America---WLAC.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

This Weekend in L.A.

DECEMBER 13, 2009
LOS ANGELES JAZZ INSTITUTE BENEFIT PARTY
11:00am-11:00pm
Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel
5855 W. Century Blvd.

The Los Angeles Jazz Institute is moving to a new location and throwing a big day-long jazz party to help raise the needed funds. The Institute is an important organization with the centerpiece being a huge jazz archive that includes 130,000 records, thousands of CDs, books, tapes, magazines, music, films and numerous musician collections. Moving all of this is a huge undertaking and will cost thousands of dollars.


Singers Pinky Winters and Kurt Reichenbach will be performing from 12:40 pm till 1:30 pm at this worthy benefit.There will be plenty of great music all day. In addition, 16 bands will be performing continuously on two stages. They include:

Bill Holman Band
Terry Gibbs
Carl Saunders Be Bop Big Band
The Cannonball/Coltrane Project
Tall and Small - Pete Christlieb/Linda Small
Steve Huffsteter Big Band
Gary Urwin Jazz Orchestra featuring Bill Watrous
Kim Richmond Concert Jazz Orchestra
Med Flory Big Band featuring Supersax
Fred Selden plays Art Pepper + 11
Ron King Big Band
Dave Pell
Florescope - Chuck Flores Octet
Gerry Gibbs Quartet
Bill Reichenbach
Dewey Erney/Ron Eschete
Frank Capp
Bob Summers
Ron Stout,
Scott Whitfield
and more...

There are two specific donation levels to attend this special event:
The $150 Platinum level includes priority seating
The $75 Gold Circle level provides open seating.
Both ticket levels provide full access to all venues.
The L.A. Jazz Institute is a non-profit organization and your donation is tax deductible.

To reserve your seats or make a donation please call (562)985-7065
For more details lajazzinstitute.org

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Annals of audioiana



















__________________

Yesterday, I was a guest of my friends Hajime and Han at a meeting of the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society. While there, I began to relate the following audiophile fable to Hajime, but we were somehow interrupted, and so when I arrived back home, I sent him the following followup email. I reprint it here because IMHO it is not without its somewhat amusing overtones (after all, this IS alleged to be a blog of mirth and music).
Hajime san:

To make a long story short (which I seldom do), after I finished all the weeks and weeks of soldering my Eico stereo amplifier kit in high school in 1960---building amps from kits was all the rage that season--- I had all these parts left over. (I have trouble even reading an instruction manual for a ballpoint pen.) And so. . .

I plugged the amp into a long extension cord which I ran the length of the house. Thus, the amp was at one end of the house and I was at the far end. I crouched behind a couch and plugged it in. At the other end of the house, there was immediately a rumble, a flash of light, and a sort of explosion replete with acrid-smelling smoke. I waited a few minutes, then tentatively plugged in the turntable to the (80 watts) amp, hooked up the speakers and, by crackies, the damned thing worked absolutely perfectly. I threw all those extraneous diodes, transistors etc. away (fie!), and kept the amp for at least ten years, during all of which time it performed absolutely perfectly. (I'm not exactly certain that I know what the moral of this story is supposed to be [?].)

I finally abondoned it for one of those classic suitcase KLH Model 11's, perfect for my then-hippie lifestyle and which I used for at least a couple of decades.

Not that you asked, but. . .. Today, I have a Nikko amp and pre-amp (with mega-wattage), KLH model 24 speakers that I bought at a garage sale aeons ago for ten dollars apiece, and which I could very easily blow out with the Nikkos if I'm not careful, and a nice Technics turntable.

Well I guess I didn't EXACTLY make my long story short, but when I start writing OR talking it often takes me a while to get to the verb......

Here is a link to Eico amplifier kit info. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eico

Thanks to you and Han again for a lovely afternnoon.

(Not exactly) Keigu,

Biru

Jennie Smith CD liner notes by Jennie herself!













________________
SSJ Records (Japan) has just released, on CD, singer Jennie Smith's Canadian-American Records album from 1963. I had a lot of fun working on the reissue with Jennie, and, in fact, she even wrote the liner notes, included in the CD package in Japanese translation. I was very proud and happy that she took time out of her busy schedule to do this for SSJ. Here is her original English language text.

"I was born in a coal mining hollow in Burnwell, West Virginia in 1938. At an early age when my mother took me to movie musicals, I'd go right home and sing all the songs. Singing was what I wanted to do more than anything. My stepfather, John Kristof, was a newscaster at radio station WMON in Montgomery, WV. Eventually we moved from Montgomery to Charleston where my stepdad signed on with WCHS - doing news, weather, etc.

After graduating high school at age 17, I went to N.Y.C. Hugh McPherson (WCHS late night) put me in touch with the right person, Ray Ellis. I auditioned for RCA Records and got a contract. Steve Allen, who had an NBC Sunday night television show, heard one of the tracks on my album and invited me to do a guest shot on his show. This was my first national television performance.

I started working nightclubs around the country (with a chaperone, as I was under 21). My first nightclub date was at the Black Orchid in Chicago with Jonathan Winters, one of the funniest comedians ever. Later, I again worked the Black Orchid with a comedian who was doing his first nightclub performance - Bill Cosby. He talked a lot about a beautiful girl named Camille, that he wanted to marry. A few years later, Biil and I worked together again - this time at Harrah's in Lake Tahoe. By now, he had married Camille and they were expecting their first child. Bill had zoomed to stardom and I felt so lucky to be performing with him. I'm uncertain as to when it was, but for a few months I was a regular on Arthur Godfrey's radio show on CBS.

Steve Allen moved his telelvision show from N.Y. to Los Angeles, and was syndicated five nights a week. His show kept asking me out to L.A. to perform and finally he hired me to work on his show as a regular. I moved from New York to L.A. and this was one of the happiest periods of my life. It was exciting meeting all the stars that guested on the show, and the musicians on the show were absolutely top notch, a pleasure to work with. Sometimes the entire entire show worked other places around the country doing concert dates.

After being on Steve's show for about two years, I started doing more nightclub dates. I worked with Red Skelton at the Sands in Vegas, Joey Bishop at Harrahs in Tahoe, the Smothers Brothers at the Flamingo in Vegas, Mickey Rooney at the Fairmont in Vegas, then toured with Buddy Hackett. Pat Boone, his musicians and I toured in Japan. Also, around 1968, I was lucky enough to land the national Chevy TV and radio commericals on which Frankie Randall and I sang together. It was exciting and fun.

Eventually, however, traveling began to lose its excitement for me. I longed to be in one place with my friends and my little pet dog. I didn't work for nearly a year and finally decided to live a more stable life by getting a secretarial job.

I worked for General Reinsurance Corporation for 31 years (I retired about ten years ago). During the time I was at General Re I met my husband, Arthur Brown, and we've been together since 1978.

Steve Allen and I collaborated on two songs - I wrote the music and he did the lyrics. To this day I have jazz artists calling to ask for a lead sheet on one of the songs, "After You." I recorded both the tunes on an album for Dot Records.

A while back, I collaborated with a gifted lyricist, Ruth Feeley and the fabulous writer, Jack Segal, who's written some of the world's treasured songs like "When Sunny Gets Blue" and "Scarlet Ribbons." Nearly every top artist has recorded his material. The song we collaborated on is called "The Best of Love", on which I wrote the melody, and Frankie Laine recorded it."

--- Jennie Smith Brown - 2009

Here's a link to my Jennie Smith discography.
And a link to a Life Magazine article about Jennie.
AND a link to a 1968 "Frankie and Jennie" Chevy radio commercial.